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Breakout or bust: Second year tight ends

Fantasy football is back for 2020! We take a look at five second-year TEs and breakdown their fantasy football value.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions catches a pass prior to the NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

After a year of NFL football under their belt, these second-year players should be ready to take on the league at full speed. For fantasy, second-year breakouts can often be had later in drafts if you get them right. In the NFL, even getting to the second season as a viable option for your team is an accomplishment.

Below, we’ll take a look at some second-year tight ends who will get a chance to shine this season.

T.J. Hockenson, Lions

UPDATE: The Lions added Hockenson to the Covid-19 IR list. He could miss a week or he could miss an extended period. We don’t know yet.

Tight ends almost always have trouble adjusting to the NFL and it can take a couple years for them to reach their potential. Hockenson’s rookie season started out great, as he dominated the Cardinals for six catches, 131 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t even sniff those numbers again. The loss of Matthew Stafford hurt, but the rookie learning curve likely took its toll as well.

With a year of starting under his belt and Stafford returning, there’s no reason to think Hockenson won’t be able to take a step forward this year. The Lions added De’Andre Swift and will get Marvin Jones back from injury, but I expect Hock to still be a big presence over the middle in Matt Patricia’s offense.

Noah Fant, Broncos

Fant caught 40-of-66 targets for 562 yards and three touchdowns his rookie season. He was inconsistent, but flashed some big time upside. The Broncos added Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler to Fant and Courtland Sutton, rounding out a strong group of young receivers. Fant will have more competition this season, but will have a year in the system already. If he can show that he’s on the same page with QB Drew Lock early on, he could become a consistent player at an inconsistent position.

Jace Sternberger, Packers

The situation for Sternberger this season looks ripe for upside. Last year ian ankle injury kept him out of the first half of the season and then playing behind Jimmy Graham as well as the learning curve, kept him on the sidelines. His snaps did rise as the season went on and he caught a touchdown in the playoffs. Now he’s penciled in as the starter on a team weak at receivers.

After Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have many receivers he can count on and the team did nothing in the draft to rectify that problem. At the very least, Sternberger will get a chance to prove himself and should get a longer chance than most.

Irv Smith, Vikings

Smith is likely the better pass catching tight end between himself and Kyle Rudolph, but Rudolph isn’t going away. The good news is that Smith averaged more targets per game than Rudolph last season and the Vikings lost Stefon Diggs. They did replace Diggs with rookie Justin Jefferson, but Smith is already ingrained into the offense and should see an uptick in work.

Dawson Knox, Bills

The addition of Stefon Diggs this offseason was a tough break for Knox. Knox can be a playmaker at tight end and deserves work. The trouble is, there is no clear path to targets for him in a run-first offense. He should be a real part of the offense and if targets open up, he’s got a good shot at progressing, but he’s not set up for fantasy value out of the gate.

Kahale Warring, Texans

Warring spent his rookie year on I.R. and was more of a developmental pick in 2019 despite going in the third round. His learning curve should be more pronounced than other tight ends after playing multiple sports in college and not focusing on being a tight end. His athleticism set him apart though and the Texans are hoping he can make a leap this season.

Houston has a lot of tight ends, but none that have been able to earn the bulk of the starting reps. Warring is a long shot, but if he can win targets, his upside is strong with Deshaun Watson throwing it his way.